Muppet Treasure Island
One of the biggest problems with Robert Lewis Stevenson's Treasure Island is that, while it promises to be a rousing tale of pirates and adventure, it takes a very long time to get young protagonist Jim Hawkins onto the ship and into the adventure itself. Frankly, the book is one of those supposedly beloved classics that absolutely no one ever really enjoyed reading but had to endure either because a teacher forced it down their throat or because it was considered de rigeur for a well-rounded literary background. And yet, despite its rather plodding narrative, it's considered a tale that's adored by children throughout the generations and inspired four big-screen efforts starring the likes of Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, and Wallace Beery. And then, in 1996, the Muppets took on the story with Muppet Treasure Island, mixing humans and Muppets together in a far less satisfying fashion than their previous efforts. The story's remained the same after a pirate named Flint buries a fabulous treasure (and kills all of his crew afterwards because, as we know, dead men tell no tales), Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop) comes across a map leading to the pirate gold and signs on as a ship's cabin boy to search for it. Here, he also brings with him co-cabin boys The Great Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, who try to jazz up the proceedings with a lot of very stupid, often startlingly anachronistic, jokes. Once on the ship, Hawkins encounters Long John Silver (Tim Curry), who's also eager to find the treasure, the ship's captain (played by Kermit), and a motley band of humans and puppets. When they reach the island, it's discovered that Flint left a crew member behind Benjamina Gunn (Miss Piggy), who has become queen of the warthogs. It's difficult to say why some of the earlier Muppet efforts, even after Jim Henson's death, succeed so well and others, like this one, fall so flat. Pirates and Muppets seem like a naturally clever combination it may be that the fundamental weaknesses of Stevenson's original story become all the more glaringly apparent when turned sideways in this manner. It also doesn't help that Curry plays Long John Silver in a painfully self-aware, over-the-top manner (compare this performance to Michael Caine's deadpan Scrooge in The Muppet Christmas Carol) combined with some extremely forgettable songs by Hans Zimmer and Barry Mann. Even for those of us who love the Muppets, this one is a bit of a disappointment. Buena Vista/Disney's "Anniversary Edition" DVD release of Muppet Treasure Island offers a crisp, clean remastered anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) as well as a slightly less crisp, but still clean, full-screen option. The DD 5.1 audio is fine, but as the original film didn't do much with the format's potential, it sounds a bit flat. Oddly, Disney has chosen to offer less on this anniversary edition than on the previous DVD release the audio commentary by director Brian Henson from the earlier version isn't included here, with just a silly "Pepe Profiles" featurette on Fozzie Bear as the sole extra. Keep-case.